So, my fiance and I just closed on our first home this week! It feels like the culmination of a journey that began about 10 months ago and was filled with excitement, hope, frustration, anger and ultimately, joy. I’m not sure if anyone is an expert on the home buying process, but here are a few pieces of wisdom we learned along the way:
1. Pictures lie.
Real estate pictures are worse than any instance of celebrity photoshopping I’ve ever seen. Rooms are maximized, faults and minimized, and every home could conceivably be your dream home.
2. Schedule showings, go to open houses.
AJ and I had been looking at houses online for about three months when we finally went to our first round of open houses. That’s when we learned how majorly pictures lie. “Palatial bathrooms”, in real life, couldn’t fit a person and a towel rack in them. In person, “gleaming hardwood floors” were covered in scratches, sticky goo, and all manner of “gleam” no one would want.
3. Find a real estate agent you can trust.
AJ and I actually had two realtors during our process. The first had great reviews online (life tip: always seek out, and read, reviews!) but was basically absent from the entire process. I had to practically beg him to take us to showings; we met with him three times over a 5 week period. The last time, he told us he only had about 20 minutes to show us one of our top home contenders.
So when a realtor called out of the blue a few days later, we were open to someone new. Our new realtor turned out to be super present and really involved–just what we needed.
4. Find a mortgage lender you can trust.
Our mortgage lender was amazing. She was honest and supportive and genuinely wanted us to get the best deal possible. We explained upfront that we had never been through this process before and were a bit intimidated and she was very patient and respectful in answering all of our questions and addressing our concerns. She, along with our home inspector, was recommended by good friends which is better than the best online reviews.
5. Find a home inspector who kicks ass.
Our home inspector was basically the best part of the whole process. She was honest, thorough (most important quality to have in a home inspector) and committed to providing us with as much information as possible. Were it not for a home inspector as detail oriented as ours, we probably would’ve been stuck with expensive repairs down the road.
6. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
We negotiated on almost everything–repairs, closing dates, closing costs, appliances, the home’s price. Buying a home is a HUGE investment–shop smart and get the best deal.
7. When you see The One, you’ll know.
(At least this was true in our case.) AJ and I saw about ten houses with our new realtor, but the one we bought was the one we kept coming back to in our discussions. It didn’t have everything on our checklist, but it was just…The One. We knew it from the minute we stepped into, but told ourselves to go slow and make the best decision. So, in the week between the first and second times we saw the home, we continued looking at houses online, refining our needs and wants list, and going to showings. We brought a trusted friend to our second visit for a fresh pair of eyes, which served to cement to us that this was The One.
8. Read all your paperwork–twice.
Read every contract, every repair request, EVERYTHING. Then have a neutral party read it. Then read it again. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask questions of your real estate agent, contractor, mortgage lender, home inspector, appliance seller-everyone.
Buying a home is a daunting prospect–especially if you’ve never done it before. Be smart, do your homework, and make a choice you feel comfortable with.